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Healthy Tip: Watch Your Sugar

By Alana Sugar, March 16, 2009  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Alana Sugar
No, I did not change my name just so I could write with a level of authority on this subject! I guess you could say that going to a nutritionist named Sugar is like going to a dentist named Payne. Funny how life works. But this isn't about me. Sugar America has a sweet tooth. Well, some would argue it's more like an addiction. Sugar is everywhere. You'll find refined and concentrated sweeteners in obvious places like soft drinks, candy, cake, cookies, ice cream, bottled teas, coffee drinks and more. And also in places you might least expect, like salad dressing, soup, bread, pizza, pasta sauce, salsa and even bottled water. Whether in the form of white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, cane juice or honey, too much sugar is too much sugar. It's been linked to everything from diabetes to behavior problems, mood swings to dental cavities. So, what really happens when you consume sugar such as a candy bar or a soda? The short answer is your blood sugar spikes and your body responds by secreting insulin, a hormone made in your pancreas. Insulin then lowers your blood sugar causing you to "crash" and this can lead to tiredness, irritability, mood swings and cravings for more sugar. Most of us have heard the term "empty calories." These are calories we consume that have little or no nutritional benefit. Think: soft drinks, candy, cookies and assorted treats. Empty calories can lead to obesity as well as nutritional deficiencies. The more empty calories you consume, the less appetite you have for healthier, nutrient dense foods. To support good health, become aware of your daily intake of added sugar, cut back accordingly, and learn to recognize hidden sugars on labels. Any ingredient with a name that ends with the letters "ose" are kinds of sugars - dextrose, sucrose, maltose, lactose, glucose and fructose. Other concentrated sweeteners include corn syrup, sorghum syrup, cane juice, invert sugar, high fructose corn syrup, malt sugar, brown rice syrup, molasses, brown sugar, agave, honey, beet sugar and evaporated cane juice. Of course, the sugar picture gets a bit murkier because there are naturally occurring sugars in fruits and dairy products. The good news is that when sugar occurs in nature, it is typically accompanied by fiber, fat and/or protein. This is a perfect design by nature as these elements slow the rate at which the sugar is absorbed in our bodies. This prevents havoc on our blood sugar levels. So, it's perfect to feed that sweet tooth with a piece of fresh fruit. On the downside, some people hear "avoid sugar" and they rush to diet sodas and other products with artificial sweeteners. As you may know, Whole Foods Market's quality standards don't allow any products with artificial sweeteners. Some of these start off as pure sugar but undergo a chemical process that converts it into a molecule that does not occur in nature. Instead of heading down that road, here are some natural solutions for reducing your sugar consumption:
  • Start gradually - you'll be more likely to stick to it! If you sweeten your tea or coffee, use half the amount of sugar. Soon, it will taste sweet enough, and you can reduce even further. If you drink sodas (and even diet sodas), reduce your consumption by half. When you want a fizzy drink, mix sparkling water with 100% fruit juice. Try this for a week or two and when ready, cut your intake again by half.
  • Buy plain yogurt, plain kefir, unsweetened breakfast cereals, unsweetened iced teas, unsweetened bottled water and unsweetened frozen fruits-you may need to read labels to ensure that they are unsweetened. If needed, sweeten them just a bit at home. This way you control the amount of sugar you consume.
  • When you do sweeten at home, use unrefined sugars that have nutrients intact. Examples are pure maple syrup, honey, evaporated cane juice and agave nectar (a sweetener from the agave plant). Remember, even though natural and unrefined, these are still sugars, and should be consumed in moderation. Here's more on natural sweeteners.
  • Avoid fat-free versions of foods, like fat-free salad dressings and sauces. These often contain greater amounts of sugar to compensate for less fat.
  • In recipes, experiment with reducing the amount of sugar called for by about one-fourth.
  • Limit sweet desserts to special times such as weekends, parties and birthdays. When eating out, share your dessert with others.
  • Choose whole or cut fruits, grapes and berries for a non-sugary dessert. Sprinkle with cinnamon for an added treat. Baked fruit provides its own natural sweetness too.
  • Reduce your intake of processed foods in packages and cans. These often contain added sugars.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet containing proteins, healthy fats, and unrefined carbohydrates from starchy vegetables, whole grains, legumes and whole fruits. Balance on your dinner plate helps create balance in your body!
  • Before you indulge an acute sugar craving, grab a handful of nuts. The healthy fat and protein in nuts can satisfy a sweet tooth and help balance your blood sugar.
  • Instead of eating a whole candy bar, choose just a small piece of good quality dark chocolate. Melt this slowly in your mouth for the most satisfying effect. (This is my favorite way to enjoy chocolate!)


Do you have some tricks for dealing with a sugar craving or cutting back on sugar? Share!
Category: Healthy Eating




Chris Rausten says ...
I take a swig of Monavie. It is sweet and tasty and alleviates that sweet craving as well as gives your body some really good nutrition and tons of antioxidants. It has no sugar of any kind added and only has 3 grams of natural sugars from fruit.
03/16/2009 12:04:42 PM CDT
Dr. Ranveig Elvbakk, MD says ...
Some 80 million Americans are diabetic or pre-diabetic, and high cholesterol is the order of the day even in children. Doctors are at a loss to see past this, as are politicians and other leaders. Out of these statistics come the studies and recommendations we have seen lately: We are actually told it is risky to lower blood sugar aggressively in diabetics, and that children should be started early on statin drugs to prevent heart disease! These decrees come down from “influential doctors” who probably chomp down statins themselves. And how can a parent who pops nine lifestyle drugs possibly influence a child to eat food instead of garbage to avoid a similar fate? I went hiking in the High Sierra this weekend and was routinely greeted by half-tame squirrels about twice their normal weight, living on morsels of our modern diet of bread, crackers and cake. It was then it occurred to me: This is the next market. There is unlimited potential for the statin business among fat squirrels. I did not even see the marmots, raccoons and the other gleaners that buy into our culture. I have yet to meet a patient, who understood what happens when you eat, that includes the many doctors and other medical personnel I have had the privilege of seeing over the years. Maybe it is time to start steering people towards information instead of pills. Bravo to you for this entry. I have more tips for cutting sugar in my book, The Food Tree.
03/16/2009 2:35:30 PM CDT
Jean says ...
Bravo - this is a great post! People have become addicted to sugar, and your tips for weaning off it are very practical. Dr. Elvbakk's observation about squirrels in ingenious. Once people become re-accustomed to the subtle and delicious flavors of natural food without added sugar and salt, they will be shocked by their old palate. Readjusting is a slow process, but if you stick with it, you'll surprise yourself. I never thought I would wean myself off potato chips and Cheetos! I will definitely refer link to this in my blog. Thanks!
03/16/2009 4:11:18 PM CDT
Wendy Young says ...
So glad to see your blog and especially happy ya'll are tweeting more!!
03/16/2009 10:09:43 PM CDT
Elmsbett (Betty Franc) says ...
Brilliant Blog. I changed my sugar habit (addiction)some years ago now, after starting treatment with a Complimentary Therapist. She leant me the book "Pure White and Deadly" basically the reasons never to let refined sugar pass your lips, an interesting read. Which also lead me off the well trodden Sweetener route. After finding out what certain Sweeteners contain and their very detrimental effects on health. I now use honey if I need to sweeten anything or alternatively the Carob Products, have to admit they take a little bit of adapting to but once you persevere, well! I now couldn't eat chocolate it's too sweet.
03/17/2009 8:33:23 AM CDT
Lisa says ...
Sorry, but your suggestions for alternative sweeteners aren't exactly enlightened or informed. Evaporated cane juice is just as dangerous as sugar, and really IS sugar, except for the faux-name calling it otherwise. Maple sugar is also an extremely yin, expansive sweetener, as is honey, and can cause problems. The most balanced and least -extreme sweeteners for home use are actually rice syrup and barley malt.
03/17/2009 8:42:34 AM CDT
Lisa says ...
Of course, since "evaporated cane juice" pretending not to be sugar is in 98% of the food products that Whole Foods sells, not surprising that their blog would be recommending it as a substitute for sugar. Only problem is, it IS sugar! LOL
03/17/2009 8:54:14 AM CDT
Christina says ...
To Lisa: I am not seeing what you're seeing in the post. Alana never suggested that evaporated cane juice wasn't sugar. In fact, she wrote "Remember, even though natural and unrefined, these are still sugars, and should be consumed in moderation" so your indignation is unprovoked.
03/17/2009 9:37:13 AM CDT
MM says ...
When I crave something sweet after a meal, I pour a glass of orange juice. It usually helps with the cravings!!
03/17/2009 9:51:16 AM CDT
Lisa says ...
I'm referring to her suggestion: "When you do sweeten at home, use unrefined sugars that have nutrients intact. Examples are pure maple syrup, honey, evaporated cane juice and agave nectar." Why write a post about the dangers of sugar, and then in the same blog recommend evaporated cane juice for home use, when there are many wiser, healthier alternatives?
03/17/2009 10:39:58 AM CDT
Lisa says ...
Evaporated cane juice vs. granulated sugar: http://webercam.com/2008/04/evaporated-cane-juice-vs-granulated.html
03/17/2009 10:42:57 AM CDT
Lisa says ...
It's misleading for her to include evaporated cane juice as a healthier alternative to sugar, linking it with natural substances like honey and maple syrup, even though she follows up with a warning that these substances are still sugars. Well, duh! That's not the point of this post which is warning against sugar. Carrots and squash are sugars, too. Evaporated cane juice is NOT a healthier alternative to refined sugar, and will have the same adverse affects to those who are intolerant of sugar, although they may be able to tolerate honey and maple syrup, which is why it's irresponsible and dangerous of this blogger to include evaporated cane juice along with them.
03/17/2009 10:53:38 AM CDT
Rob says ...
Great article, thanks for posting it! I've been trying to convince people to avoid refined sugars for the last six years. Unfortunately, most people don't want to hear it. As far as I know, evaporated cane juice is basically just a fancy term for refined sugar. I avoid it. I also avoid maple syrup, agave nectar, and fruit whenever possible. Fresh raw vegetables have just as many vitamins, nutrients, and fiber as fruit, but without the high levels of sugar. True, fruit sugars are natural and unrefined, but they should still be kept to a minimum.
03/17/2009 8:46:18 PM CDT
Elizabeth says ...
I love to hear that people are as passionate as I am about the dangers of refined sugar - it's nice to know that I'm not "crazy" in the way I'm thinking. I've been trying to kick the sugar habit for over a year now and have just recently begun blogging about my journey on www.sugarsthedevil.blogspot.com (I even mentioned Whole Foods Market in my last post!) Although my focus is is now on whole foods, I feel that refined sugar and all refined foods for that matter, are a main culprit behind unhealthy eating. They are convenient, tasty, addictive, have become the norm, and are EVERYWHERE! For me to get where I am today (and I'm still struggling, mind you), I had to cut refined foods from my diet. But the thought of cutting out everything cold turkey forever was very daunting to me. Instead, I took it one day at a time. I committed to going without sugar for one day - just one day. It took some planning - what would I eat? I'd have boiled eggs on hand, nuts for snacking, plenty of fresh veggies available. I didn't limit what I ate as long as it had no added sugar, so calories was not a focus. After day one, I did it another day. I got excited about the fact that I was even able to do, so it motivated me to continue. At the end of day three, I found it much easier...as long as I was prepared with the right foods on hand. It gave me the kick-start I needed to make better choices - kind of a detox from sugar/refined flour products. I still slip up, but it's not as often or for as long, and I tend to pay the price for it more quickly now. But then I go right back to "one day sugar-free" which now, more easily turns into three, then three weeks, etc. I'm seeing and experiencing tremendous benefits from eliminating these foods from my diet and replacing them with nutrient-dense alternatives (everything "works" better, I feel better, and even my teeth, hair and skin have changed - for the better!). I don't know if I'll ever be 100% sugar free, but I'll keep trying. Now, if only I can get my children to join me!!
03/20/2009 12:49:45 PM CDT
Andrea says ...
Thank you. This is a clear and concise post about sugar. I have cut back tremendously on my sugar intake and I feel great! I come from a family of small (actually skinny) people where we consumed sugar with no worries since we are naturally thin. However, I could not figure out why as an adult I was always sluggish and moody. After cutting back, I feel fantastic! I know it sounds difficult, but sincerely, if my sister and I can do it, anyone can.
06/14/2009 12:07:25 PM CDT
Lisa says ...
Really liked your article...just recently diagnosed with breast cancer, I now eat no refined or natural sugars except fruit. Knowing that all cells need sugars, I also add whole wheat (home-made) breads to my diet. However, I love chocolate and I found two alternatives to my cravings. I like to eat a high-end 100% cocoa baker's chocolate...it takes a little getting used to, but once you do, you'll really enjoy it. Also, I use sweet potatoes as a sweetener. If anyone is trying to avoid cancer or is fighting cancer, it's so important to limit the amount of sugar (and fat) in your diet...diets high in fat and sugar could increase the risk or growing additional tumors or causing the cancer to metastasize...at least that's my conclusion from all the research I've done.
07/13/2009 5:22:06 PM CDT
Star (To honorable Mr. Joshua & Don) says ...
11/27/2009 12:39:17 AM CST
hsiaw says ...
Beet sugar, as well as other conventional sugar alternatives are available in our stores, generally in the baking department. If you need help locating a particular item, please contact Guest Services at your local Whole Foods Market.
11/27/2009 2:53:34 PM CST
Ash Lauren says ...
Many protein powders have a lot of sugar in them--up to 15 grams per serving sometimes! But not Soytein. Some flavors are completely sugar-free and do not have any sugarless substitutes in them and others have no sugar added. They aren't as sweet and it can take a little while to get used to them but the flavors are great and there's also 14 grams of soy protein in one scoop!
03/16/2010 8:54:16 PM CDT
David says ...
Agave nectar has a higher concentration of fructose than high fructose corn syrup and a higher glycemic index. Most of the article does a great job of telling people to simply stop eating sugar, but recommending something that is actually higher in sugar than the product its replacing is a little disingenuous.
04/15/2010 2:59:18 PM CDT
please send me diabetic receipes
09/06/2011 7:05:02 PM CDT
janejohnson says ...
@Francois We're so pleased to offer an extensive listing of recipes for all sorts of dietary needs. I've copied the link to our recipes for the sugar conscious below. Hopefully you find something to tickle your taste buds that is a great fit for your diet too! http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/search-results.php?specialDietTypeId=12
09/07/2011 4:33:26 PM CDT
connie says ...
I just searched this site for pure GLUCOSE. No luck; I just read an article on Dr. Mercola's website about sugar and how addictive it is, written using information by Dr. Richard Johnson on his extensive research into the dnagers of fructose. His book The Sugar Fix, deals with diseases caused by our high sugar diets; fructose is the culprit which creates high uric acid levels in our bodies. He recomends no more than 25 grams of fructose a day and for most 15grams would be better. High levels of fructose (sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup,fruits.) will absolutely devastate your biochemistry and physiology. Forget the agave it's 80% fructose.likewise honey. He says a far safer alternative is pure glucose; but you muat be careful there to because when combined with fructose glucose actually accelerates fructose absorption, so when mixed together you absorb more fructose than if you consumed fructose alone. Your best alternative is Stevia, so bottom line is stop all sugar and eat fruit sparingly to control weight and stay healthy. Read his book or go to Mercola.com for the article on Dr. Johnson and his research.
02/23/2012 2:46:39 PM CST
James Spencer says ...
I live in the Dallas Texas Area. My wife is allergic to cane sugar so we use beet sugar. Whole Foods spd beet sugar a few years ago then stopped carrying it. Anyone who has a grass allergy will be allergic to cane sugar because sugar cane is a grass. Most people do not know this and beet sugar can replace cane sugar the taste is the same however beets are not related to grass. Long story short, will you start to carry beet sugar again? I would like to buy it from the bins so I can get it in bulk. If not could you please point me to someone in the Dallas area who sells beet sugar? So far I have only seen one place but they cannot keep it in stock because it is so popular in the DeSoto/Cedar Hill area.
07/28/2013 11:17:36 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JAMES - Our products differ between stores so check with your local store to see when they will be getting in the beet sugar. If they do not have plans, they will appreciate the suggestion!
08/01/2013 3:13:33 PM CDT